The holiday season rolls around and the crowds flood into Paradise while a few of us seek time out around the coast or further afield. Thanks to all the locals who keep Gisborne humming over the busiest period of the year, I hope you too find time to relax with your friends and family.

It’s been a roller-coaster year in terms of local issues.

10,000 locals signed a petition and thousands marched to convince the Government and KiwiRail that retaining the line is essential for the prosperity of the region as local business demonstrated its value.

Air New Zealand cut flights in response to Eastland Group increasing the cost of using the airport and the Government cut local roading subsidies while increasing fuel tax to pay for billions worth of new motorways in other parts of the country.

Petrobras pulled out of deep sea exploration and two Canadian companies submitted an application to explore onshore while the Government plans to have 90 percent of the district under oil and gas exploration by 2014.

Housing New Zealand has over 70 empty properties in Gisborne while many families will spend Christmas in overcrowded conditions, in boarding houses and a few just sleep in the open.

Local government legislation had an unpopular overhaul along with the rules around financing council election campaigns (they probably should include a requirement to disclose political party positions of councillors too). The ETS was scrapped with no effective replacement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while some of the most successful national business leaders pushed for greater public and private investment in the green economy.

Locally the representation review has resulted in a new configuration for Gisborne District Council after the October 2013 elections and the challenges of unpaid rates on Māori land have been shelved while we sort out some gross anomalies in the new rates structure that hit some landowners very hard.

Children living in poverty, youth mental health, our sexually transmitted infection statistics and gangs have been other issues I have worked on this year.

On a more positive note we have seen great progress being made on most of the major projects Council agreed on in June. Walkways and cycle lanes were the big winner based on massive pubic support. The focus needs to be on commuter cyclists – the Taraheru boardwalk and Kaiti to Wainui cycleways will result in the largest gains.

The Transit of Venus was a highlight of the year for many of us, especially the Transit Forum that brought the best minds in the country here to discuss the future of our country.

The inaugural Tairawhiti Techxpo was a roaring success as it exposed local students and their families to the potential of careers in the technology industries and plans are well underway for a bigger and better event in 2013.

It is great to see many young people who grew up in Gisborne returning for the holidays and exciting to hear about the interesting work they are involved with outside of the district. New partnerships with universities have been established in the district and we look forward to the opportunities these bring for innovation and new business.

Belonging has two meanings. One is the sense of connection to a place and/or a group of people, the other relates to ownership. For all of us to really belong here we need to develop and maintain both a strong sense of connection and have some degree of ownership in decisions and public resources. I hope both of these factors have been strengthened locally over the year and will continue to grow in 2013. 

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